Written and translated by Boxun News. Edited by China Aid Association.
On Nov. 15, 2013, in its’ “CCP Central Committee Resolution Concerning Some Major Issues in Comprehensively Deepening Reform,” the 18th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party announced that it would abolish the re-education through labor (RTL) system, perfect the laws for punishment and correction of unlawful and criminal acts, and strengthen the community correction system. Thus, at the level of the ruling party, an end has been proclaimed to the RTL system that has been in operation for the past 56 years.
There is no doubt that the RTL system is the product of a particular time and particular circumstances and contrary to rule of law. It is in direct conflict with Article 89 of the People’s Republic of China’s 1954 Consititution: “No CITIZEN may be arrested without the approval of a People’s Court or People’s Procuracy;” therefore, it has never been a legally effective system. The RTL system has played a most ignominious role in a number of historical phases including the anti-rightist movement, the strike-hard campaigns, and the stability preservation campaign. Especially from 1999 onward, in order to suppress a particular group, RTL measures were used even more widely. The present decision of the ruling party to proclaim its’ abolition is a result brought about in response to forceful, joint efforts on the part of people in China, of the many victims of the RTL system, of all kinds of human rights defenders, and of the international community.
Even though an end has been proclaimed to the RTL system, the Chinese people, in particular those in legal circles, ought to remember and reflect on the disaster it has brought upon the rule of law and human rights and its further negative impact.
We acknowledge and support the decision to abolish RTL, but considering the statement that it would “perfect the laws for punishment and correction of unlawful and criminal acts, and strengthen the community correction system,” we maintain a high degree of vigilance and concern. We, therefore, wish to make the following statements concerning the future of the corrective legal systems in the “Post-RTL Era:”
1. We propose that the National People’s Congress Standing Committee explicitly repeal the “Decision Concerning Problems of the Re-Education Through Labor System,” thereby giving a response to the whole nation’s citizens from the highest authority at the legislative level.
2. After the abolition of RTL, ALL judicial departments should make active efforts to handle requests for compensation and other matters made by former RTL inmates, in accordance to the provisions of the law.
3. Given that the Supreme People’s Court has already clearly stated that it will actively cooperate with RTL reform and explore and improve mechanisms for the quick adjudication and decision in minor criminal cases, we believe that there is no longer a need for new legislation concerning the punishment and correction of illegal and criminal behavior.
4. If there is insistence on enacting legislation on “perfecting the laws for punishment and correction of illegal and criminal behavior,” then it must fully implement the constitutional protection of basic human rights, strictly limit the potential targets of such legislation, and ensure that strict legal procedures are followed throughout, so as to prevent an arbitrary widening of targeted persons. Also, there ought to be safeguards ensuring that targeted persons can obtain timely judicial remedies.
5. As long as legislation on “perfecting the laws for punishment and correction of illegal and criminal behavior” involves the deprivation of liberty of the person, we advise, as a precautionary measure, that this legislation be debated and enacted by the National People’s Congress and not by its Standing Committee. Such legislation ought to be made in public hearings for comments and discussion, allowing participation of all sectors of society, so as to satisfy the requirements of citizens’ right to information and participation.
6. After RTL has been abolished, detention places used for the illegal deprivation of liberty that have all along been operated outside the legal system, such as so-called “legal education bases,” “legal education centers,” “training and warning places,” all types of “black jails,” and other covert RTL facilities where citizens, in essence, become victims of crimes of false imprisonment must be shut down and removed immediately. The legal liability for any person of authority responsible for such illegal and criminal acts must be pursued.
Signitures are in the process of being collected. We invite Chinese lawyers to join Chinese Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights and to add their signature to this statement.
China Aid Contacts